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Cool Uncle 'Cool Uncle' review

The Bobby Caldwell and Jack Splash project has Jimmy Coultas entranced.

Jimmy Coultas

Last updated: 19th Nov 2015

The internet has many purposes. It keeps us in touch (and ourselves in business), it feeds us dog memes and it also provides us with a constant stream of new music and discovery. It also has the power to somehow bring all of the above together in a curiously weird way, with curiously great results.

Take the case of the Cool Uncle project. Languid producer du jour Jack Spalsh, Alicia Keys and Kendrick Lamar collaborator and the man who made Cee-Lo's Green 'I Want You' one of the most delicious nu soul jams of the century, casually mentions how a collaboration with blue eyed soul don Bobby Caldwell is top of his bucket list. He then gets a Facebook message from Caldwell's dog.

Although it's tempting to imagine the singer's pet excitedly conversing after a fruitful Google alerts notification, the account was instead used by his wife and this then led to them setting up the Cool Uncle project, their self titled debut (stream above on Spotify) the results of this downright bizarre happening.

Putting that weirdness aside the result is magnificent. Caldwell will forever be known for his sumptuous 1978 ballad 'What You won't do for Love', a song so gorgeous Jessie Ware has covered it brilliantly and 2Pac (and plenty more in hip hop) sampled to chart topping standards, but his career has spanned thirty decades and a variety of genres. Best of all, his voice is still superb.

Here Splash offers a number of glittering production techniques to provide the perfect backdrop for that shimmering vocal sound to dominate, gliding effortlessly from one captivating syllable to the next. Take the way 'Destiny' starts on an almost SBTRKT esque swaggering bass before it softly slips into elevator jazz, all twinkling keys and subtle sax, only to end on a brooding collision of both sounds. It takes a lot of effort to sound this languid.

Elsewhere there are steel drums bolstering 'Miami Nights' and Stevie Wonder's 'Love Light in Flight' (above) rippling underneath 'Never Knew Love Before', helping to add to the textures of yacht rock, eighties soul, classy R&B and quiet storm which Caldwell has always been known for, Splash just enhancing it all.

It for the most part treads that fine line between ironic schmaltz and genuinely great pop (the moniker only half tongue in cheek), but some of it is taking the joke too far. 'A Dream' sounds like Lionel Richie on the moon, lunar MOR gone wrong, and the Cee-Lo Green duet 'Mercy' feels a little flat, but these are minor digressions. 

There's other notable collaborations, including Ware on 'Break Away' and fellow veteran eighties singer Deniece Williams on the spellbinding 'Breaking Up', but the real trick is in the way the duo utilise their outsider status to avoid overriding their welcome. Take the daring 'My Beloved', with the most modern sound on the album and lyrics describing the life of a vampire who loves a session a bit too much.

The complete high point though is when they revel in everything they're about. 'Game Over' is luscious soul of the highest order, Caldwell duetting expertly with Mayor Hawthorne in a delicious meeting of mentor and apprentice. Splash sits back, adding a sensuous saxophone as the words 'Rio De Janeiro drip off the tongue with boner enabling ease. We all need a relative like this in our lives.

Feeling this? Check out Album Review: Mac Ddemarco 'Another One'.